The responsible planting of trees is an important way to care for the environment and beautify communities, but it is also vital to the safe and reliable delivery of electricity. Trees not only beautify the environment, but they also serve practical purposes. For example, trees and shrubs can shade homes from both direct and reflected sunlight to help keep them cool and energy efficient. Trees also can reduce the velocity of wind striking the outside walls of homes and buildings to help moderate temperature fluctuations.
CenterPoint Energy has been working to decrease potentially harmful vegetation and power line interaction significantly along public rights-of-way, in neighborhood parks and at schools. Planting the right trees in the right place — away from power lines — will replenish the urban forests while reducing CenterPoint Energy’s need to trim or remove trees. Proper selection and placement of trees can save money on electric bills, avoid safety hazards, improve electric service and beautify the landscape.
To promote a balance between environmental responsibility and reliable electric delivery, CenterPoint Energy has developed its Right Tree, Right Place program. The goal of the program is to educate consumers about power-line-friendly tree planting practices and, ultimately, to help minimize the number of outages caused by tree interference with power lines. The Right Tree, Right Place program brings utility personnel together with community leaders and city officials to locate potential problem areas in the service territory.
Community and Relationships
The utility has worked successfully with several Houston, Texas, U.S. metropolitan communities, including Missouri City, Bellaire, Pearland, Pecan Grove and the City of Houston, to host Right Tree, Right Place planting events. These public events bring together residents, key community leaders and CenterPoint Energy representatives to remove potentially harmful trees near power lines and replace them with power-line-friendly vegetation. These low-growing trees will not come in contact with overhead power lines even when they reach mature height, not only eliminating a potential hazard from a public place but also bringing awareness to an important issue.
It has been beneficial to establish strong cooperation and working relationships with local governments, community planners and developers, and CenterPoint Energy is working to strengthen these relationships and promote an educational component for all stakeholders. Collaboration between local government and CenterPoint Energy is crucial to the utility’s success. Historically, there was minimal direct collaboration between vegetation management programs and local governments. Recently, however, these efforts have increased dramatically.
CenterPoint Energy has focused on improving cooperation using a diverse range of actions:
• Expanding education and outreach
• Building stronger relationships with local government,
• Requesting city planning departments to incorporate utility knowledge into approval processes
• Increasing involvement and visibility with planning, architecture and landscape organizations.
CenterPoint Energy is partnering with Trees For Houston in the Trees For Schools program in which 7,500 students across 42 schools will receive education about the benefits of trees as well as responsible planting locations.
CenterPoint Energy launched an aggressive marketing campaign to help with public education efforts. Throughout 2013, the utility placed several radio, television, Internet, newspaper and billboard advertisements about the Right Tree, Right Place initiative. CenterPoint Energy has taken full advantage of social media to blast Right Tree, Right Place messaging during peak planting times. Several articles, success stories and volunteer tree plantings have been published in local periodicals and newspapers.
CenterPoint Energy’s website includes a link to a landing page dedicated to vegetation management, which can be found at CenterPointEnergy.com/Trees. This section of the main CenterPoint Energy website provides information on tree planting guides; planting and trimming trees safely; power-line-friendly trees; Right Tree, Right Place information; energy-saving tips; vegetation management practices; frequently asked questions; information on tree-trimming contractors; and brochures on tree-trimming practices, palm trees and power lines. The site also provides powerline clearance standards, a recommended list of low-growing trees and pictures of what pruned trees look like. Each public education tool warns about using caution when pruning trees around power lines and about planting the right tree in the right place, which is away from power lines.
The Right Tree, Right Place presentation was added to the utility’s speakers bureau, and volunteer employees are now presenting on the program to local groups, such as master gardeners, master naturalists, green councils, conservancy groups, homeowner associations and landscaping groups.
CenterPoint Energy had a special Right Tree, Right Place booth for display at events and conferences. In 2013, the booth was set up at more than 12 different events, including the City of Houston’s Farmers Market, the annual Houston/Galveston Hurricane Workshop, races, local concert venues, Bike Around the Bay and public city events. The booth is staffed by CenterPoint Energy arborists with informational handouts.
Cultivating these relationships has provided CenterPoint Energy with a wide variety of opportunities to educate more people about the importance of tree placement. It has also presented the utility in a way that shows it is not only interested in financial investments but also in the well-being of the communities it serves.
Matthew Churches ([email protected]) is program manager of corporate community relations at CenterPoint Energy, focusing on environmental outreach initiatives. Churches holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from the University of Nevada, Reno, and is a certified arborist, a utility specialist and a municipal specialist. He also serves on the Texas Urban Forestry Council, Houston Area Urban Forestry Council, and ISA Texas board of directors.
Mentioned in this article:
CenterPoint Energy | www.centerpointenergy.com
CenterPoint Energy’s 2013 Involvement
Here is a look at the list of cooperative tree plantings and partnerships CenterPoint Energy was involved in during 2013.
• Jan. 26: CenterPoint Energy partnered with Trees for Houston at an Arbor Day Planting in MacGregor Park. The park had lost most of its tree canopy to severe drought conditions. More than 68 CenterPoint Energy volunteers joined in the planting of 1,200 trees in the park. CenterPoint Energy provided volunteers and underwrote portions of the project costs.
• Feb. 9: CenterPoint Energy partnered with the Houston Area Urban Forestry Council at the 2013 Arbor Day tree planting competition, which consisted of 10 amateur and professional teams each planting 100 trees within a grid at a Harris County Flood Control District retention basin. CenterPoint Energy arborists assisted as judges to ensure trees were planted correctly.
• Feb. 9: Volunteers from CenterPoint Energy along with the Greater East End Management District, Trees for Houston, Keep Houston Beautiful, and the Houston Parks and Recreation Department planted 400 trees between Hockley Street and Lawndale. This was part of an effort to beautify the Broadway area and helped to support initiatives of the management district. The district develops and implements projects and programs that create a safe environment within the district, in both perception and reality, enhance the image of the district, and improve infrastructure and amenities in the district. This also attracts more business and investments to the district, and improves business opportunities, which increases economic activity for the business property owners, tenants and their customers.
Here is a partial log of CenterPoint Energy’s 2013 activities working with communities it serves:
• March 9 and Oct. 5: CenterPoint Energy partnered with the Greens Bayou Corridor Coalition to plant trees and pick up trash at two separate locations. CenterPoint Energy volunteers provided planting expertise, planted trees and assisted with overall coordination of the two events.
• March 2013: CenterPoint Energy underwrote the planting of 89 trees with the Westchase Financial District, creating the Library Trails demonstration planting behind Wilcrest Library.
• May 8: CenterPoint Energy arborists instructed and aided in a tree planting on the grounds of Patrick Henry Middle School.
• Oct. 26: CenterPoint Energy teamed up with the Arbor Day Foundation, Trees For Houston and the Texas Forest Service at CenterPoint Energy’s inaugural Energy-Saving Trees giveaway. The Energy-Saving Trees program provided the perfect conduit to further promote the Right Tree, Right Place program. CenterPoint Energy engaged more than 1,800 customers face to face, driving home the importance of tree placement. CenterPoint Energy’s Energy-Saving Trees program allows consumers to save energy by planting the correct tree species in the proper location to shade their homes effectively.
Homeowners lower their utility costs, the urban forest is replenished and CenterPoint Energy builds positive relationships within the served communities. Homeowners registered online at the Arbor Day Foundation’s website in advance of the event. Customers were enlightened about attributes of the available species, where to plant them and how to care for them. These shade-producing trees will offset CenterPoint Energy’s peak demand and reduce the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity.
Contributions and Partnerships
CenterPoint Energy made financial contributions and/or partnered with the following groups:
• Westchase District
• McGregor Park
• Hurricane Workshop
• Galveston Tree Conservancy
• Trees For Houston
• City of Houston
• Bike Around the Bay
• Memorial Park Conservancy
• Texas Forest Service
• Greater Houston Partnership
• Buffalo Bayou Preservation
• SPARK PARK
• Arbor Day Foundation
• Houston Area Urban Forestry Council
• Japhet Creek Park
• Harris County Flood Control District
• Keep Katy Beautiful
• Keep Texas Beautiful
• Bayou Preservation Association
• Hermann Park Conservancy
• City of Bellaire
• Texas Nature Conservancy
• Galveston Tree Conservancy
• Houston Arboretum
• Collaborative Tree Species Planning Group